One of the hostages in the synagogue standoff in Colleyville, Texas, said he thought the gunman was going to kill them shortly before they made their daring escape. Jeffrey Cohen, one of three hostages held at gunpoint for 11 hours inside Congregation Beth Israel on Saturday, said the suspect told them to get on their knees and that he was going to shoot them during the final hour they were held hostage.
Cohen told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday that throughout most of the ordeal, the hostage-taker was “calm,” and indicated he would not kill the hostages but that he was prepared to die. But, Cohen said, the man’s demeanor changed in “the last half hour or so.”
“He said he was going to shoot each of us, put a bullet in each of us,” Cohen said. “That was the first time that he said that. And then just a few moments later, he said, ‘I’m gonna make you get down on your knees, get down on your knees.’”
Cohen said he stared at the gunman and mouthed, “No.”
“That glare was the first time that we had showed any aggression toward him. We weren’t subservient, at that point,” Cohen said. “He started backing away immediately and he went and sat down. Now, I didn’t see him put his gun down. But, I did see him go to pour some soda. And when he did that, Rabbi Charlie [Cytron-Walker] picked up the chair and threw it, yelled, ‘Run.’ I didn’t see the chair go until I was running.”
Cohen also detailed several deliberate steps the hostages had taken throughout the standoff that made their escape easier, including sitting in areas with direct access to the exit.
Cohen revealed that he tripped as he was running away, but he and the other hostages made it out of the building as the gunman chased them. The hostage-taker, who was killed during the incident, then retreated back inside before an FBI team went in after him.
“It had been reported yesterday that we had been released or rescued. No. We escaped,” Cohen said.
Cohen said it was emotional seeing his family after his escape.
“This is after midnight, after we’ve been debriefed, you know, tears flow. The bodies shake,” he said.
The suspect, who has been identified as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, had allowed the hostages to call their families during the standoff, Cohen said. Cohen called his wife, daughter and son.
“I generally did not think we would get out. So I wanted to say something,” he said, adding that he had kept his composure during those short conversations. “I didn’t want to give him any power by being emotional.”
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